America lost a titan today with the passing of Alice Rivlin. Simply put, Alice was the mother of modern fiscal analysis. The Congressional Budget Office only exists as it does today because of her strong leadership as its founding director. Alice resisted political pressure and established the CBO as Washington’s non-partisan umpire of fiscal debates, and as a result, everyone who works in American fiscal policy has benefited from her public service. But Alice Rivlin didn’t just analyze economic policy, she made it better. As the first woman director of the Office of Management, Alice helped President Clinton balance the federal budget for the first time in a generation. She shaped monetary policy as vice chair of the Federal Reserve, saved D.C. from fiscal ruin as the head of its financial control board, and developed innovative proposals for everything from bending the health cost curve to reshaping the relationship between federal and state governments.
Many of us at PPI have had the privilege of working with Alice over the years. In Alice we found a kindred spirit: someone who believed in the importance of investing in the next generation without leaving them the bill. As chair of the BPC’s Debt Reduction Taskforce and a member of President Obama’s fiscal commission, Alice was instrumental in crafting the two most influential bipartisan deficit-reduction plans of the last decade. At the same time, her support for fiscal responsibility didn’t stop her from championing federal investments in education, infrastructure, health care, retirement security, and so many other important public goods our society needs. Alice understood what too many in DC do not: robust public investment and responsible fiscal policy are not contradictory, they are in fact complementary.
We were lucky to benefit from her guidance when we launched our Center for Funding America’s Future last year and will miss her greatly as we continue our work moving forward.